Review: Excelsior, Dubrovnik (Smith Hotels)
Excelsior has history, gorgeous interiors and some of the best swimming I have ever experienced. Spending two nights here is not enough, but it also makes for the perfect quick getaway, and the ideal place to switch-off and chill-out.
The hotel is an easy 30-minute ride from the airport which makes any early morning flight more than bearable. The building has been built into a cliff face and wouldn’t look out of place in a James Bond film. Over the years it has played host to a string of famous guests including Elizabeth Taylor, Sir Roger Moore and Francis Ford Coppola. Recently it has undergone renovation and is divided into two parts; the old and a modern wing. I would advise asking to stay in Villa Odak which is the classic side with a 20s facade dating back to 1913. I stayed in a superior room that was spacious with a cinematic view of the Adriatic Sea and the old town. Every room offers break-taking views and has its own private balcony with retro white woven chairs and table. The aerial-views of the manicured terraces, cacti and tides crashing against the rocks below are straight out of a Slim Aarons photograph. Inside the rooms are chic and effortlessly cool with navy headboards, Carrara marble tables and pale-pink velvet chairs. As if this wasn’t enough, they even provide you with some chocolate and candied orange treats to welcome you. Anyone would be in heaven!
We headed straight to the sunbathing deck to catch the last of the summer rays. The atmosphere is relaxed here with only the sound of the waves occasionally splashing over the rocks. You need to remember to bring your goggles for the diving as the water is crystal clear and you can see for miles. The Dalmatian Coast is famous for having some of the cleanest waters, and consequently it has an amazing energy which is more than enough reason to travel to Croatia. The hotel has an extensive spa including an enormous indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room and snow fountain. This was an added bonus and I made use of the facilities before my morning swim. The snow fountain is an incredible way to rejuvenate your circulation and I was pretty much buzzing all the way to breakfast.
After spending all day reading and sun-soaking, it was time to explore Dubrovnik. Excelsior is just five minutes walk from the town centre. There are some tourist traps but I recommend street-food cafes such as Pink Shrimp Street Market and Barba for an octopus burger. If you are looking for a nice restaurant then Orhan offers delicious seafood overlooking a more secluded harbour. Aside from guessing which parts of the town featured in Game of Thrones, I loved the Buza cliff-top bars where they play soulful music while you sip on Croatian wine and watch the sunset. You can’t go to Dubrovnik without walking round the medieval stone wall to catch more views and understand the scale of the fortress. I would advise going first thing in the morning or at 5pm to catch the last hour as it gets hot during the day.
Breakfast at Excelsior is served on a bright white courtyard and offers fresh blueberry smoothies, chocolate croissants and a medley of whatever-eggs-you-fancy. It is included in the room charge and is incredibly good value.
On our second day it was time to tear ourselves away from the grandeur of Excelsior and make time for some island hopping. You cannot miss the endless canoe tours going back and forth across the bay and it felt like this was an expedition that needed to be done. You can find many kiosks offering trips on your way into town and we managed to find a reasonably priced excursion to see the neighbouring island, Lokrum. The snorkelling here is again out-of-this-world and there are a few beautiful spots for cliff-jumping. I saw a few sunset tours which take people round the Wall of Ston which is a fun way to see the town from the water and get your bearings.
I ended my holiday with one last swim in the hypnotic waves and a drink of Croatian Pošip on the terrace. This is definitely where you want to stay on a visit to Dubrovnik, and the calm ambiance means it is a chance to hit pause, and replenish your body and mind.